I have written several stories about the men of our village, including my father. I spoke of their honesty and integrity, and how they would never abscond with a nickel that wasn’t rightly theirs.
And this was true.
Well, 98 percent true.
Turns out, in the sixties, our prosperous farmer neighbor, Charlie Mueller, passed away. And he had no immediate heirs. Just distant ones. Heirs who were not likely to have an understanding of what Charlie possessed.
Now Charlie had a great deal of money, much of it in the form of cash, which he kept in his house. My dad would never touch that.
But Dad was very interested in Charlie’s tractor. This wasn’t a small lawn tractor- it was a full size 30 year old Ferguson tractor that Charlie kept in his barn. Don’t be fooled by the 30 year old description- tractors lasted forever. And that Ferguson was in great shape.
Upon Charlie’s death, the tractor mysteriously moved- from Charlie’s barn to our barn. I was hacking around in the barn and I spotted it.
What the hell?
Knew right away where it came from. Dad had borrowed it dozens of times to disc his sizable garden. I even had driven it a few times.
Went up to the house and found Dad.
“What’s up with the tractor, Dad?”
“What you talking about?”, replied Dad.
“Charlie Mueller’s tractor is in the barn.”
Unintelligible mumbling ensued.
“Uh, Charlie’s dead”, replied my father.
“I know that, Dad, but it’s still his tractor.”
“His nephew Arden has no need for that tractor”, he shot back.
“Dad, you had the opportunity to steal thousands of dollars cash from Charlie, and you never would consider it. How is this different?”
It was apparent that Dad was getting very uncomfortable. This was new territory for him. So I dropped the subject.
Dad used that tractor extensively over the next several years. Then one day Dad flipped the tractor pulling down a tree. Nearly killed himself.
Skip Chambers picked up the tractor and brought it to his shop.
Cracked block. Tractor kaput.
So 25 years ago, Skip Chambers towed the tractor out to the property that faced route 17k. And if you drive past that property today, that rusted Ferguson is still sitting there. Outlasted my dad by 20 years.
I drove by Skip Chambers place not too long ago, and a little further up the road, I drove past our old home. Sometimes I think of other things, but this time I thought about Charlie Mueller’s tractor. And I thought about the fact that this was probably the only time that my father was a touch dishonest.
So, as luck would have it, that tractor still sits there as a monument to dad’s only dishonesty. Poor guy has no luck.